How to Preserve an Ostrich Cell

ArteryWe have a long article – with an even longer back story – today from Brian Thomas, called Dinosaur Soft Tissue Preserved by Blood?

For many years now Mary Higby Schweitzer has been investigating soft tissue and other biomolecular remains from inside dinosaur bones that are 70 million or so years old. For equally many years young Earth creationists like Brian Thomas have been pointing to these soft tissues and insisting that they could not last nearly so long, and so therefore the Earth is young. In this article Thomas says:

The scientific community has long shown its desperation to defend mainstream fossil ages against the short shelf-life of soft-tissue fossils.

This is, of course, a gross mischaracterisation of the debate. Continue reading

Lizard Remnants

Excuse me while I blow away some of this dust.


On Friday, Brian Thomas published an article called Whole Lizard Encased in Amber. What we have is an approximately 23 million year old piece of amber from the state of Chiapas in Mexico which contains preserved within it an entire lizard, albeit quite a small one. Details are scarce, but one news piece claims that it has been “preliminarily identified as a new species of the genus Anolis” – this does not narrow things down particularly well, however, as Anolis already contains nearly 400 living species. Here’s a video which contains some pictures (though the image shown before the video loads is of something else):

Continue reading

What are the odds?

Another “soft tissue preservation” article from Brian Thomas today: “Scientists Broom Challenging Discoveries Beneath ‘Contamination’ Rug.” He means “sweep” there instead of “broom,” which I don’t think it supposed to be a verb. Thomas hasn’t got a new find since last week’s, but instead does a more general overview of the concept:

Recent years have witnessed many revolutionary discoveries of original tissues in fossils. Each new find challenges the widely held notion that fossils formed millions of years ago. After all, lab tests repeatedly show proteins and other biological materials lasting no longer than hundreds of thousands of years—millions are out of the question. As a result, these fossils clearly look like recent deposits. What tactics do evolutionists use to accommodate these original organic remains into their entrenched belief in deep time?

The claim that “lab tests repeatedly show proteins and other biological materials lasting no longer than hundreds of thousands of years” is one of the great ironies of young Earth creationism: as Ken Ham would say, “were you there?” Continue reading

2012 in Review: Soft Tissues

Unexpectedly, a new article has appeared in the DpSU section: The Best Creation Science Updates of 2012: Earth Sciences, by Brian Thomas. From the title we can reasonably assume that this is the beginning of a series revisiting the year’s triumphs, something that didn’t happen last year. Conveniently this is also the first year when I already have stuff on the vast majority of all potential “best creation science updates,” so I can tell you already that “triumph” isn’t exactly the most accurate description. Continue reading

How to Preserve a Dinosaur Cell

It seems that we’re not done with Schweitzer’s Bone paper. Dieter Britz was kind enough to send me a copy of the full paper, so I can tell you about the proposed preservation mechanism. And – by coincidence – Brian Thomas has written a second article on a different aspect of the same paper, called Did Scientists Find T. Rex DNA?

First, the “Molecular mechanism for preservation.” In the section just prior to the conclusion Schweitzer et al ask:

Cells are usually completely degraded soon after the death of the organism, so how could ‘cells’ and the molecules that comprise them persist in Mesozoic bone?

That’s not entirely unlike something Mr Thomas would say. But unlike the ICR’s “Science Writer” the authors go on to give a potential solution. Continue reading

Schweitzer Redux

Mary Higby Schweitzer has a name that is commonly tossed around in creationism-related discussions of preserved ancient soft tissue. She is most famous for her various impressive – though highly controversial – discoveries of soft tissues in Cretaceous dinosaur bones. Young Earth creationists like her because to them the things she found could not have survived tens of millions of years, and are therefore evidence in favour of a young Earth. Schweitzer, for her part, is not at all fond of the creationists and spends much of her efforts countering criticism of the reality of the tissue finds, as well as determining how they could have survived the ages.

One of the most famous criticisms is the claim that the discoveries consist of some sort of bacterial “biofilm.” As we already know from a couple of weeks ago Schweitzer has recently published another paper on this subject, which claims:

Multiple lines of evidence support endogeneity of osteocyte-like microstructures in two dinosaurs. We show the first binding of bone-specific monoclonal antibody to ‘cells’ of these dinosaurs. Four independent lines of evidence support the presence of a component chemically consistent with DNA. We propose a novel mechanism for the preservation of these materials over geological time.

Unfortunately the paper is not open-access, so I can’t tell you what the “novel mechanism” is at this point (I’ll see about getting my hands on it). Brian Thomas’ article – Dinosaur Bone Tissue Study Refutes Critics – opens: Continue reading

A Directory of Randomness

I sometimes regret tethering this blog so tightly to the activities of the ICR – it means it’s harder for me to talk about what I want (not that I’m very good at that). After all, moments of hilarity and craziness are by no means limited to this one organisation. And science itself is cool too, I suppose. Anyway, here are some vaguely-relevant things I have read recently: Continue reading

Ötzi’s Blood

Replicas of Ötzi's clothesAccording to an article published on May 1 in LiveScience, ‘Iceman’ Mummy Holds World’s Oldest Blood Cells. Said “iceman” is of course the naturally mummified Ötzi, who died around 3250 BC and was frozen in the Alps on the Italian/Austrian border.

But young Earth creationists claim a much older record holder: Mary Higby Schweitzer’s T. rex red blood cells. His article for Wednesday, thus, asked Are Iceman Blood Cells Really the Oldest? Continue reading

Soft Tissues and Logical Fallacies

Collagen MoleculeIn 2005, Palaeontologists lead by Mary Higby Schweitzer revealed to the world (in a paper in Science, read it here) of their discovery of ‘soft tissue’ in a bone of the ‘B. Rex’ Tryannosaurus specimen (MOR 1125), which was dug up in a 68 million year old portion of the Hell Creek formation. The proteins thought to be found included Collagen, pictured. This is pretty cool, but it seems Schweitzer had learnt from a previous announcement of hers in 1993, which seems to have since been largely discredited (I’m not too sure here). The 2005 paper admitted:

Whether preservation is strictly morphological and the result of some kind of unknown geochemical replacement process or whether it extends to the subcellular and molecular levels is uncertain.

Nevertheless, in the time since then it has been increasingly shown that the collagen from the bone is the real deal (although it could still be of bacterial origin), with — among other things — a small number of other dinosaurs having been found that show similar evidence, for example. The evidence is, apparently, so sound that Dr Schweitzer and a few others have published a study that compares the molecules of collagen themselves with those from “extant taxa”, i.e. living creatures, and discusses how the protein could have been preserved far beyond the expected length of time. Continue reading